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Peter VandenBosch

Peter Vandenbosch Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame at the Air ZooAfter service as a radio operator and gunner on a B-24 Liberator in World War II, Peter VandenBosch returned the United States and embarked on a successful career in broadcasting, eventually owning several radio stations and related businesses. After retiring, Peter and his wife, Joan, purchased a home in Florida and planned on living out their retirement traveling the country in an RV and fishing on the 25-ft Tiara fishing boat they'd recently acquired.

In 1990, after several years of retirement, VandenBosch was standing on the deck of his fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico when he heard a voice, almost as if someone was standing next to him, say "Peter, there is more to life than this". This cathartic experience started things in motion for what would eventually become an aviation-focused humanitarian organization that would change thousands of lives.

After telling his wife about his experience on the boat, she insisted they return to Holland, MI so he could pursue whatever higher purpose lay ahead for him. They relocated back to Michigan, and three months later an associate Peter had co- owned an airplane with 20 years earlier called, out of the blue, and asked if he would be willing to use his current aircraft to transport low-income patients to medical centers for free. When he told his wife about the call, she looked at him and said "There's your calling". Peter began providing flights, and, realizing this was his "higher calling", eventually founded the Holland, MI-based non-profit "Wings of Mercy" organization.

"Wings of Mercy" is an all-volunteer organization of pilots, nurses and others who provide free air transportation for patients with limited financial resources. From its humble beginnings, the organization has grown to encompass three chapters, 200 volunteers and 67 aircraft at its disposal. Since 1991, "Wings of Mercy" has flown over 7,000 missions, linking low-income patients with critical specialized treatment options that would otherwise be an impossibility. For more information on "Wings of Mercy", visit www.WingsOfMercy.org.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program